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By Michael Goettler, Former CEO of Viatris
December 8, 2020
Recently, I certified our support for the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. While both Viatris legacy companies were signatories, our commitment as Viatris means more than a routine change of names. It is an early, important sign that we are dedicated to our mission and eager to reimagine healthcare for people everywhere, regardless of circumstances or geography.
The UN Global Compact is now in its 20th year and engages 12,000 companies. As a signatory, we commit ourselves to a set of fundamental principles designed to protect human rights, promote the dignity and safety of workers, sustain our planet and work against corruption. We will report each year on how we are advancing these principles across our operations and re-commit ourselves annually to achieving them.
Becoming part of the UN Global Compact also means working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were unveiled in 2015. These goals, 17 in all, are an urgent call for global progress in building a better world for everyone, everywhere. One SDG, To Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages, establishes targets for reducing disease by 2030. These include ending epidemics of infectious diseases—HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria among them—and cutting premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by one-third.
We at Viatris are exceptionally well positioned to help the world reach this SDG. We have the scientific, manufacturing and distribution capabilities, deep expertise, and a wide-ranging commercial platform that extends to more than 165 nations and territories. Most important, we bring the passion and drive needed to do our part in achieving a vital goal.
Some people may say the SDGs are overly ambitious, but that’s precisely the point. Ambitious goals force a change in mindset, from what an organization can do on its own, to what we can all do, together. This can lead to massive accomplishment, as the world witnessed with the predecessor of the SDGs, the UN Millennium Development Goals. Launched in 2000, these were also described by many as idealistic. Yet, they significantly helped lift more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty and triple world’s middle class by 2015. Malaria mortality rates fell by 58%; HIV infection rates by 40%. Global infant and maternal mortality rates both dropped by half, much thanks to those goals.
It’s a sad reality that progress on the current Sustainable Development Goals has slowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some areas, previous gains are in danger of being reversed. This makes our commitment to the Global Compact even more important. We intend to apply and leverage our unique capabilities, manage inherent risks, and be a reliable partner in this endeavor and many others, today and into the future. We look to help open the doors to a healthier, more just, more equitable world—one that we can all be proud to pass on to future generations.